Wednesday, 21 February 2018

I've Got My Ticket... The Band - The Musical

Like many of the female population you will find plenty of CDs in my collection that are by boy bands, with Take That being among them.

I don't own each and every one of their album releases, its more like two, but from those couple of albums combined with what live footage I have seen of the group my opinion on them remains a very good one indeed.  
 With their ever growing legion of fans it is absolutely no surprise at all that their countless of hit songs have been worked into a brand new musical, of which is about to travel the UK, all before it graces a stage in London's West End.

Everything you need to know about The Band musical and my overall star rating.
Show Name: The Band
Venue: The Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury
Performance Dates: Tuesday 20th February – Saturday 3rd March 2018
Starring: Rachel Lumberg, Alison Fitzjohn, Emily Joyce, Jayne McKenna,
AJ Bentley, Nick Carsberg, Curtis T Johns, Yazdan Qafouri, Sario Solomon
Written by: Tim Firth
 Directed by: Jack Ryder
Choreographed by: Kim Gavin

Brief Information:
'The Band' follows the story of five teenage female friends in the year of 1992 who all have a major thing in common with each other - their love for the same celebrity boy band.

Now in the future, it’s been twenty-five years since the girls, who are today mature women, last met. Things have obviously changed, however the appreciation that they all shared for their musical heroes remains equally, if not more, as strong as before.

Finally together again after such a long period apart, it may be the last opportunity that the friends get to make their dreams of meeting the male personalities who had such a significant impact on their lives come true, which they are not going to let pass by.

Prior to the show:
I have had the advertisement page for this brand new show turned over at the edge ever since I first spotted it last year in my local theaters brochure, silently hoping that an invitation would be emailed my way (which it was - Yippee!).

Having spent a lot of time being a dedicated fan of fellow man band McFly, the plot captured my attention instantly and it was something that I knew I would most probably be able to relate to in multiple ways.

The winners of the 2017 BBC One television show 'Let It Shine' where original member Gary Barlow was a judge, were presented as having a vital role in this production. Known as 'Five to Five', they would be performing some of Take That's famed songs. In all honesty I had only tuned in to the programme on a couple of occasions after it first launched, so the quality of their vocals was something I had little knowledge of.

What did you like?
The leading female's undying love for their favourite pin-ups truly came across, as youngsters and in the present year. In the opening scene two of the teenage girls were not afraid to flaunt their passion in the corridors of their school, which had the audience roaring with laughter, as did further more comical moments.

I didn't expect as much singing from the female roles, but it was a great addition alongside the bands harmonious vocals, of whom had an impressive three changes of outfit in a single concert scene.

The inclusion of both old and new Take That songs was something I valued. A rendition of 'Never Forget' prompted the audience to join in with the recognised hand movements to this particular track. Plus knowing that Gary, Mark, Robbie and Howard have been officially involved with the creation of this production made it even more appealing for me.

I have never seen Take That in concert before, but this live experience gave me a bit of a taste to what attending a tour date of the real thing might actually entail. Not only that, but the small cast brought such vibrancy to this production that I could easily imagine being made into a blockbuster film... Watch this space.

Even if you are not a big Take That fan, you will be glad that you went to watch this new musical - I know that I am.

What would you change?
The unfortunate death of a vital character in the first half was saddening. Especially when before this incident there had been such a positive vibe.

My star rating out of five: 

Find out more about The Band - The Musical, including ticket prices and performance times:

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

I've Got My Ticket... Grease - The Musical

Without hardly any thought into it I would say that my favourite on-screen couple has to be Danny Zuko and Sandy Olsson.


Of course, these are the two lead characters famously played by John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John in the extremely well known film that is Grease. Their love story truly is 'electrifying!' (Sorry, I just had to get that in somewhere) and I was very keen on catching the musical version when it arrived in a nearby city as part of its UK tour.

I was even more eager for the October date to arrive when it was announced that the role of Danny would be played by Tom Parker of boy band The Wanted. Plus, with it being my birthday shortly before I had the perfect excuse to sing along a little more than usual - and possibly dance too.

Everything you need to know about Grease the musical and my overall star rating.
Show Name: Grease - The Musical
Venue: The Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury
Performance Dates: Monday 23rd October – Saturday 28th October 2017
Starring: Tom Parker, Danielle Hope, Gabriella Williams, Louisa Lytton
 Directed by: David Gilmore
Musical Staging and Choreography by: Arlene Phillips

Brief Information:
Travel back to the 1950's and attend a high school where there is always something exciting happening. The arrival of Sandy, a new exchange student, gets classmates talking. At the beginning this is because of her squeaky-clean image, but when she is seen canoodling with the confident Danny Zuko everyone soon wants to know much more about her.

Next, Sandy finds herself hanging around with the coolest of personalities, including those belonging to the sassy 'Pink Ladies', building her confidence along the way - All in the lead-up to a very big transformation.

Prior to the show:
Although I had admired northern lad Tom's voice on the tracks that he released with The Wanted, it did cross my mind if that same husky voice I’d come to love would be up to scratch for some of the high notes John Travolta hits, particularly in 'Summer Nights'.

I had actually never heard the singing vocals of neither theatre-trained Danielle Hope (Sandy) or Ex-Eastenders actress Louisa Lytton, who was playing the feisty Rizzo before, which meant that it was going be a surprise entirely to me how their voices would compare with the original stars. 

What did you like?
A fantastic live band opened the show, demonstrating their expertise on their musical instruments. The first song 'Grease is the Word' came next with tons of energy from a bunch of the students. The stage settings were also a fabulous inclusion, with many being a variety of locations easily recognisable in American schools.

Whilst there were plenty of merry tunes throughout the entire shows duration time, it was also indeed nice paying attention to the slower classics, such as 'Hopelessly Devoted to You'. This was beautifully sung as a solo act by Gabriella Williams who filled in for Danielle Hope, which was the name advertised as playing the part of Sandy initially. Louisa Lytton also portrayed her role of Rizzo brilliantly, not toning down her bold character at all.

Tom Parker still managed to include a little sign of his boy band days with The Wanted, rocking out with skill on an electric guitar whilst stood upon a blinged-out car for 'Grease Lightning'. Though I think that there aren't many of us who wouldn't not know at least a single dance action to this individual song, from watching the film the dance routine to 'Born to Hand Jive' appears to be much more complicated. The whole cast however seemed to have no difficulty at all, performing these rhythmic movements flawlessly on this certain musical number and in each of the others too.

The clothing and hairstyles of the 50's decade certainly stood out in each scene and, speaking of trendy looks, Sandy's makeover towards the end was just that. Soon after, the performances of 'You're the One That I want' and a medley of other Grease songs followed and, like the saying goes, these were "the icing on the cake". 

Grab your best friend for an afternoon or evening out, treat a young cousin (recommended eight years +), tell your uncle to throw on his dancing shoes - or why not bring along all three! Just like the smash-hit film, this cheerful musical will appeal to almost anyone.

What would you change?
As I've said already I love Tom's voice as a singer, but unfortunately it couldn't stretch to compete with John Travolta on that ending high note in 'Summer Nights'. Obviously neither Tom, nor I can adjust his vocal range to do so, but this and the fact that some of the songs were played in a different order to the film were two minor faults that I felt should be mentioned. 

My star rating out of five: 

Find out more about Grease - The Musical, including ticket prices and performance times:

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

On the Menu Today... Toasties and What to Fill Them With

You won't often find me slaving over a hot stove in our household (burning myself is the best excuse I have for the reason as to why), but that doesn't mean to say that I don't like to rustle up something yummy for my afternoon lunch.

Now, I am not much of a bread lover (although I do take pleasure in sharing a garlic baguette with two out of the seven of my evening meals), but occasionally I will reach for the sliced loaf. And, when I do, although appetising, your bog-standard tuna mayonnaise sandwich is rarely what I prepare.

Yummy toastie ideas and how to make them.My suggestion for lunchtime is a toastie!
Two slices of warm, toasted bread packed with anything you decide to spread inside and then sealed together, all ready to then be demolished.

This creation is rightly categorised under the 'comfort food' term I'd say, which is needed at times, but even more so when it is absolutely freeezing (chatters teeth) outside.
Plus, it is very straightforward to make - Here's how... 

A sandwich toaster or a toaster and a microwave (when cheese is involved).
The sandwich toaster is definitely a better option in my opinion as it actually provides a sealed finish on the bread.

1.) Using the sandwich toaster is a much easier method as all you need to do is grab your two slices of bread, add your topping(s), place together and then pop into the sandwich toaster for roughly a minute (depending on your appliances heat level). Then, flip over to toast the other side for around the same amount of time, slice in half and you're done.

2.) If you opt for using a normal toaster, toast your bread before adding any toppings. It will look almost the same as the above method, but obviously your bread just won't have the sealed finish.

3.) Now, when I make a toastie that involves cheese as my topping selection I like to melt the cheese before I toast the bread so that I can spread it across to cover the entire slice. I do this by popping one piece of bread topped with a cheese slice (think burgers in buns) into the microwave (mine is 700w) and then warm up on medium heat for around 30 seconds, sometimes a tiny bit longer. 

It is exactly the same steps when using a normal toaster, but I'd toast the bread before placing the single slice into the microwave. Remember that times may vary from the previous instructions. 

Topping Ideas:
Cheese / and... ham / jam / marmalade / pickle / onion / salad cream / brown sauce.
Ham / and... salad cream / pickle / brown sauce.
Chocolate spread.
Peanut butter / and jam. 

It is evident that there are lots more topping which could be added to this list, however these are the few that I have tried and enjoyed.

Sandwich thins are the perfect alternative to regular bread.
Wilko and Argos are two shops that I know who sell sandwich toasters for under £10 if you're yet to own this worthwhile appliance.
  Whether it's a toastie or a sandwich, 
what are your slices of bread often topped with?
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Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Reserve at the Library... My Favourite Authors

Around three years back, it wasn't uncommon for me to finish a three-hundred page book in a week or less by reading, on average, for forty minutes per night. I feel some sadness in admitting that the same can't be said nowadays. 

 From what I've come across in writing many people find calmness in sitting down with a publication of their choice, but at this present moment a chapter of twenty pages is the maximum for me.

This sudden change followed after my acid reflux diagnosis and I have since suffered from anxiety on a daily basis. As I have quite an energetic mind I keep myself busy and find difficulty in concentrating on a book for too long.

Five authors that I would consider as being my favourite writers of fictional books.

It's funny because I can read things like letters through the mail, or blog posts much easier, but that doesn't mean to say that I will never get back to reading how I once used to.

On that note, there are authors that I would steer towards now despite my current reader's block. 
Here is my top five: 
By far, this is the author that I have finished the most publications of.
Although her written releases often have a target market of children and teenagers in mind, that wouldn't stop me from buying them today, even being in my twenties.

I don't have a best-loved book of this lady. All I know is that with each one I have been on some fabulous adventures due to her incredible talent of creating fictional stories that involve both seriousness and fun scenes that a lot of us can relate to the situations of.

Nicholas Sparks:
Never has a book brought me to tears before - until I came across 'The Last Song'. But, in my defence, the film also made me blub. Along with an almost guaranteed tear-jerker moment are happy scenes with characters of whom we start to almost feel like we know in reality.

Nicholas is a hugely successful American novelist, as well as a screenwriter and producer. These talents have allowed him to turn many of his printed accounts into films, including 'The Notebook', 'Dear John', 'Safe Haven' and a variety of others.

How could I not include Mr Dahl? His cleverness for inventing such memorable fictional personalities is extraordinary. I have no worries about him being forgotten in the world of literature as children are still pulling the likes of 'Matilda' and 'The BFG' off of library and book shop shelves now. Hey, I even managed to read about the remarkable girl listed above only a few months ago, though I haven't got around to catching the recent moving-picture about the big friendly giant...

Sophie Kinsella:
Most teenage girls and women lap up tuning into a chick flick on the television, and I am no different. Sophie, however, has this marvellous ability to bring such plots to life with the turn of a page. If you long to escape into a world that is never boring and one which will frequently leave you with the urge to giggle, then Sophie is the gal for you.

This highly-recognised female author of the chick lit genre is especially known for her 'Shopaholic' series, which in 2009 the first two entries of hit the cinema big screen as a single film starring Isla Fisher.

Whether it’s a whirlwind romance in the city, making friends with a puffin by the coast, or juggling every sweet that there is available to mankind, Jenny Colgan seems to undoubtedly warm my heart with the events that take place in her written work.

Although it might not matter to some, each of her outer covers own a design that is as charming as what features inside, which in my eyes, is an extra bonus.

What authors are you fond of?
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Monday, 7 August 2017

Next Destination... Parga, Greece

Greece is a country that I would revisit again and again - and I have, 
to many of their mesmerising islands. 

I know that the high opinion I have for this destination is not only due to its breathtaking surroundings, but the kind Greek residents, and not forgetting, the incredibly delicious food on offer.

All about my holiday to the Greek town of Parga.
It has been almost three years since I last journeyed over to Greece, mainly because our family are running out of new places to go to over there. However, in 2016 I came across a superb deal (I am regularly on the hunt for discounted holidays) flying out May this year to the small town of Parga, which is located on the north-western coast of Greece.
Normally the average flight duration is around 3-4 hours via plane, which I can just about cope with sitting through. The transfer from the airport to and from the place that we stayed in was pleasant too, at around 50 minutes.
All about my holiday to the Greek town of Parga. My parents and I booked into Zozefina Apartments & Studios for our seven-night stay.
I was shocked to find out upon our return that this accommodation had just a 2-star rating and I definitely think it deserved an extra star for all that was provided. A cleaner came every day to our studio room that was furnished with two single beds, plus a sofa bed, (guess, who ended up with that?!) a bathroom, plus a kitchenette. Appliances such as a hairdryer were also included, as was a satellite television and free Wi-Fi. 
A swimming pool and tables with seating were available downstairs from our room as well.
The only area I feel that could be improved on was to the food service when ordering from the snacks and drinks menu. The wait time was longer than expected and there wasn't much choice to select from, just your standard burgers and chips, omelettes etc.
We were in a brilliant spot for seeing things, being a five-minute walk from a line of restaurants and twenty from the stunning harbour.
All about my holiday to the Greek town of Parga.All about my holiday to the Greek town of Parga.
Although we ate back at our apartments on more than one occasion, when we did eat out we headed straight for Yannis Taverna. They provide an impressive menu of homemade authentic Greek dishes that kept tempting us back to try more of their glorious (and affordable) food. 
The meatballs, stifado (a Greek dish of stewed meat with onions) and the vegetarian moussaka were the trio of dishes that I tested out over three nights and all of them tasted extraordinary. Most of the meals can be ordered with a side of oven potatoes, chips, salad, or rice, which is an option that I particularly valued. Their Greek salad (with the must-have feta cheese) was another thing to rave about, and so was the mixed grill (for two people), according to my parents. 
 Last off, the staff of this family-run business were so friendly and would give you a complimentary shot of Ouzo (an alcoholic drink popular in Greece and Cyprus) or a coffee to finish off with if you wanted to after dining in their eatery.
All about my holiday to the Greek town of Parga.

Each day we were out walking and stopped at different points to appreciate the clear sky, unbelievably blue water, beautiful flowers and a whole lot more, all in the satisfying heat that was in the high twenties.

You could book excursions with Thomas Cook for outings that lasted for either half or the full day.
My mum and dad had a good experience out to somewhere much further away, which meant a 7:30am pick-up for them and a return time of 7:30pm.
    Together we booked a train journey costing eight Euro per person.
This two-hour trip consisted of a tour of Ali Pasha castle and to take a look at the local waterfalls.
 Visiting the waterfalls nearby for twenty minutes was meant to be included on the second half, however when we stopped off at Anthousa Village that this is positioned in we were told that there was not enough time as it was too far away. As avid walkers though, we opted to travel by foot there and then back to our starting point - completely ditching the return journey in the train. Funnily enough, the waterfalls actually turned out to be a short stroll directly down the road.
All about my holiday to the Greek town of Parga.

Up from the harbour is also where you could wander around the ruins of another castle, the Venetian Castle of Parga. As this is quite a tourist attraction there was a restaurant on site where visitors could have refreshments after the steep walk up to its grounds. 

Overall, the town of Parga was another highly enjoyable getaway (plus another Greek destination crossed off of our list!) It will appeal to couples and families who relish a holiday to a part of the world that is picturesque, reasonably priced and somewhere that time for some relaxation and things to do are both on the agenda.

What part of Greece ticks all of the right boxes for you?
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